Self rescue warning
It has been quite an interesting year this boating season, the rescue crews have been very busy. In almost every case, high water combined with lackluster skills were to blame, too much learning on the fly.
Summers which are warm and follow heavy snow winters, or those which are rainy, can cause many "seemingly" easy rivers to become much more dangerous than usual. Alaska has a good amount of runs that are continuous class II-III or nice pool drop runs, but... weather changes this, and that is where the problems arise. High water or continuous whitewater, which is encountered on many Alaskan streams, presents a real danger to those who cannot self rescue on the water.When I first learned to kayak the first thing we learned was rescue, the eskimo roll, and how to re-flip an IK on the fly, duh. The next thing I learned was how to use effective strokes, and how to read water; kayak classes, whitewater rescue, and alot of boating with people who know. I have never failed to roll my kayak, and rarely have remounted an IK on shore, but still feel the need to polish my skills for increased security, and to boat more remote hard streams.
In the last couple of years many people have been introduced to the thrill of whitewater, most by rafting and packrafting, and a few by other means. The last several seasons, also, has been quiet as far as accidents go, which has left people boating with an "I'm indestructable attitude," until this year. Again; skills are not being aquired beforehand, many are simply incompetant, are swimming way to much, and for way to long.
This is a very dangerous trend, and I believe if people do not improve their skills before boating harder water, we will see alot more accidents like we have this year. Alot of the problem is that many of todays fearless boaters were not around to read about the deaths, through the years, on our streams. Sixmile has killed at least 10, I remember floating by the mangled canoe of one of those, Eagle River killed Gene the kayaker in class II and some in canoes, including some this week, the Little Su beat kayaker Tom McAssey to death, after 80 runs on it, the Tana's flush drownings, etc, etc... A couple of weeks ago high water on, glacial fed, Gravel Creek turned it into a highwater toilet flush. A group on the creek, during hot weather, ran into serious trouble, which left them no choice but to walk out 12 miles after being flown in. Three of the group swam and one was in the water for an estimated 20-30 minutes and nearly died, but thankfully had some boating and survival skills, and was found the next day alive. John and I recently changed course on Valdez Creek, stopped boat scouting or shore scouting short term stretches, and elected to scout downstream because of intense water, with no let-up. We realized what we were encountering and the potential hazards of a swim, but that awakening came from experience.
Folks pay attention, put in your pool time, take some classes, take whitewater rescue, all before you step it up to much. If you want to boat class IV, and above; learn to roll or remount on the fly, and learn to brace, or you are risking a long swim, many swims, lost gear, or your life. It's all fun until the time comes, and all of us will get medicine shoved down our throat sooner or later.
Famous last words; "hey watch this, or 'that looks easy." Have fun, mother Goose out...
Last edited by mark oathout; 08-18-2012 at 09:52.
dude, great post. too many times i've said those words..."looks straight forward", only to have my arse handed to me on a gravel stick. thanks for the insight.
Great post. Thanks for the reminder.
This definitely warrants a repost on the packrafting forum.
Mark what is your phone #?? we need to talk-- Have been trying to this info out for years!!